Put these recipes with turmeric on repeat if you’re in need of a mental health boost. Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve depression and anxiety. Used in traditional medicine and cuisine in India for thousands of years, turmeric is also used in Southeast Asian spice pastes, soups, stews, and curries.

If your mental health has suffered during the pandemic as a result of quarantines and lockdowns, loss of livelihood or the mind-blowing loss of lives around the planet, we hear you. We’re currently quarantined after 16 months of staying at home. Whether you’ve experienced anxiety and depression or you’ve been in a low mood as a result of going in and out of lockdowns, then give your mental health a boost and lift your mood by making some of these recipes with turmeric.

If you’re not familiar with turmeric, it’s an orange-coloured rhizome of the Curcuma longa plant, which is a member of the ginger family Zingiberaceae. It’s native to India, South Asia and Southeast Asia and if you can’t get hold of fresh turmeric, then you can probably find dried ground turmeric in your supermarket. Before I tell you about these recipes with turmeric, I have a favour to ask.

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Recipes with Turmeric, The Spice You Need to Improve Your Mental Health and and Lift Your Mood

Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic traditional medicine for some 4,000 years in India, as well as having a religious use across Buddhist Asia. Those ‘saffron’ coloured monks’ robes that look so striking in your holiday snaps? They were traditionally died with turmeric, not saffron.

Turmeric has also been used as a culinary ingredient, both fresh and pounded or dried and ground into a yellow spice powder in the cuisines of India and South and Southeast Asia for at least a couple of thousand years. It’s turmeric that gives Asian spice pastes, curries and stews their yellow colour.

Curcumin is the main ingredient in turmeric that makes the rhizome so good for us. Curcumin is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory powers that have been proven to help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety by fighting inflammation.

Medical professionals recommend supplements, which contain much higher levels of curcumin, however, you can’t go wrong by adding these recipes with turmeric to your lockdown cooking repertoire.  

Recipes with Turmeric, The Spice You Need to Improve Your Mental Health

Khmer Yellow Kroeung Recipe for Cambodia’s Essential Herb and Spice Paste

This Khmer yellow kroeung recipe makes the Cambodian herb and spice paste called kroeung, an essential ingredient in Cambodian cooking, which gets its yellow colour from fresh turmeric and lemongrass stems, which are pounded into a paste in a mortar and pestle with the other ingredients. The yellow kroeung is the most basic and most versatile of the main herb and spice pastes used in many classic Cambodian dishes, such as samlor machou kroeung sach ko, a sour beef soup with morning glory, and the steamed fish curry called amok trei. It’s used as a marinade for charcoal-grilled beef skewers and as an ingredient of prahok k’tis, the ubiquitous Khmer dip made with prahok (fermented fish), minced pork, coconut milk, and pea eggplants. As with any herb and spice paste, when you are starting to pound the fresh ingredients in the mortar and pestle, start with the hardest ingredients and gradually grind in the softer ingredients. Note: when working with fresh turmeric, it will stain your skin, so it’s best to wear gloves while handling it.

Creamy Cambodian Coconut Pineapple Fish Curry Recipe for Samlor Ktis Koh Kong

Our Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry recipe makes samlor ktis Koh Kong, a sweet gently spiced curry made with an herbaceous red kroeung, a Cambodian herb and spice paste pounded from fresh turmeric, lemongrass stalks, galangal, kaffir lime zest, garlic, shallots, and red chillies, combined with coconut cream, pineapple and baby eggplants. It uses one teaspoon of fresh turmeric that’s peeled and roughly chopped before pounding it in a mortar and pestle. A samlor is a soup or stew with a spice paste base that tastes very much like a curry and this samlor, which comes from Koh Kong, an island and coastal province on Cambodia’s southwest coast, tastes like a curry from a tropical island. It’s the kind of dish that you imagine tucking into on a beach holiday, sitting within splashing distance of the sea – with a bowl of fragrant jasmine rice, an icy cold beer to wash it all down with, and your toes in soft white sand. And those thoughts alone should lift your mood.

Soto Ayam Recipe for Yogyakarta’s Indonesian Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul

There are three teaspoons of dried ground turmeric in this soto ayam recipe for the beloved Indonesian chicken noodle soup that we became smitten with in Yogyakarta, Java.  ‘Soto’ means soup and ‘ayam’ is chicken and this Indonesian chicken soup with noodles is the go-to street food breakfast for many locals. Like all good chicken soups, soto ayam is nourishing comfort food that’s also eaten for the restorative properties of its ingredients, particularly the turmeric, when you’re feeling a little off or unwell. Found across Indonesia’s archipelago, soto ayam typically includes our favourite Southeast Asian aromatics: turmeric, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, ginger, and coriander, some of the same ingredients that go into the herb and spice pastes here in Cambodia and in neighbouring Thailand. But just as my favourite chicken soup recipe probably differs from your chicken soup recipe, there seems to be a soto ayam recipe for every region, city, town, village and cook on Indonesia’s 18,307 islands. If there’s one thing that Indonesians agree on it’s that soto ayam is the country’s ‘chicken soup for the soul’.

Vietnamese Turmeric Crepes Filled with Savoury Minced Pork and Sprouts

This Vietnamese banh xeo recipe makes crispy turmeric crêpes filled with savoury minced pork and bean sprouts. A street food snack, these Central Vietnam-style turmeric-tinted pancakes should be wrapped in fragrant herbs and leafy lettuce, and dunked in nuoc cham dipping sauce. There are several theories as to where these yellow pancakes originated and how they travelled the length of Vietnam and around the region. The most likely is that their provenance is the ancient kingdom of Champa, which once ruled Vietnam from Hue to the Mekong River Delta. Indeed, there are villages in the central highlands where turmeric is grown. The Cham Empire was a rival to Cambodia’s Khmer Empire, despite a 7th-century stone Cham inscription telling us a Cham prince married a Khmer prin­cess. Battles between the empires are depicted in bas reliefs on the Angkor temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we also eat turmeric pancakes, where turmeric is grown, and where it’s a key ingredient of Cambodian cuisine. I used a teaspoon of dried ground turmeric in the batter.

Southeast Asian Sweet Corn Soup Recipe With Ginger, Turmeric and Chilli Oil

Our gently-spiced Southeast Asian-inspired sweet corn soup recipe requires 10 grams of fresh turmeric, along with ginger and garlic, making it one of the healthiest recipes with turmeric. It’s a soup made for the summer corn season, partly inspired by Chinese egg drop soup and partly by the Southeast Asian ingredients that we love so much, including turmeric, ginger, garlic, and galangal. The Chinese egg drop soup is a simple comforting corn and chicken soup with spring onions and egg, and occasionally fresh ginger, particularly if it’s being made at home for someone who is sick. While that soup was one of Terence’s inspirations for this sweet corn soup, he ended up leaving out the egg as the soup is packed with plenty of flavour and texture. If you’re staying at home and quarantine cooking as we are – that is, using ingredients that make several dishes or stretching out components of dishes over multiple meals to extend the time between stressful shopping trips – then this is definitely a dish to add to your list if you have plenty of corn in the fridge.

Authentic Nom Banh Chok Recipe for Cambodia’s Beloved Khmer Noodles

Our authentic nom banh chok recipe for Cambodia’s beloved ‘Khmer Noodles’ makes nom banh chok samlor proher, a popular breakfast dish of freshly-made rice noodles doused in a yellow-green coconut-based fish gravy made from a kroeung. The spice paste is distinguished by aromatics such as turmeric, lemongrass and kaffir lime that are so intrinsic to Cambodian cuisine, and garnished with the foraged wild leaves, aromatic herbs and edible flowers so important to Cambodians for their fragrance and flavour, as much as their sense of aesthetics. Nom banh chok refers to both the fresh ever-so-lightly-fermented rice noodles that are still hand-made by artisanal noodle makers all over Cambodia, just as they’ve always been made, as well as the delicious breakfast noodle dish itself. Nom banh chok has long been ‘Cambodia in a bowl’ for me and is perhaps my most favourite Cambodian food, one of my favourite Southeast Asian noodle dishes, and easily one of our favourite recipes with turmeric.  

Vietnamese Clay Pot Caramelised Fish Recipe with Fresh Turmeric, Fragrant Dill and Peanuts

This easy Vietnamese caramelised fish recipe with fresh turmeric, fragrant dill and peanuts comes together quickly and is one of the healthiest recipes with turmeric you can make. The recipe calls for a whopping 50g of fresh turmeric, which is pounded into a marinade and paste in a mortar and pestle, so you’re going to feel very healthy after a couple of bowls of this. Plus it just tastes so delicious, it will definitely lift your mood. Called ‘Vietnamese clay pot fish with fresh dill’ at Hoi An’s Red Bridge Cooking School where we first learnt to make it when we lived in Hoi An in Central Vietnam, the dish is a combination of two Vietnamese specialties, chả cá lã vọng from the North and cá kho tộ from the South. It takes just a few minutes to pound the ingredients for the marinade and paste, and only around ten minutes maximum in total, so don’t try cutting corners by using anything store-bought pastes as cooking from scratch and using fresh quality ingredients is what makes this Vietnamese caramelised fish recipe so good.

Indian Egg Bhurji Recipe for Spicy Scrambled Eggs with Turmeric

Our egg bhurji recipe makes the classic Indian spicy scrambled eggs with a little twist courtesy of a different technique that Terence uses for soft scrambled eggs. Eaten at all times of the day with myriad kinds of Indian bread – as well as bread rolls – it’s a rich fragrant version of the kind of scrambled eggs that we love. The word ‘bhurji’ means ‘scrambled’ and you’ll see ‘anda bhurji’ and ‘anda’ meaning ‘eggs’ in Hindi. These Indian spicy scrambled eggs have all the flavour notes and aromas of Indian food that we love so much. There are many egg recipes in Indian cuisine besides egg curries or egg masala. Parsi cuisine in particular – which developed with migrants from Persia who settled on the coast of Gujarat – has myriad egg dishes that we will be exploring in the future. This egg bhurji recipe makes a scrambled eggs dish that is spicier than the classic Parsi egg dish called akoori (or akuri), to which it is often compared. It’s a bit more complex, boasting the wonderful spices so synonymous with Indian, such as turmeric, cumin and garam masala. This recipe uses one teaspoon of dried turmeric powder for a serve for two people.

Traditional Burmese Egg Curry Recipe from Myanmar with Eggs Deep-Fried in Turmeric

This traditional Burmese egg curry recipe makes a Myanmar curry shop staple that’s typically eaten for breakfast. Served with a spicy tomato and onion-based curry, the boiled eggs are peeled and deep fried in turmeric until golden, which is why you’ll also see this called a Burmese golden egg curry recipe in Burmese cookbooks. This classic Burmese egg curry recipe is from the modestly printed Burmese cookbook Cook and Entertain the Burmese Way (1978) by Mi Mi Khaing, which was one of the first Burmese cookbooks – indeed, one of the first books – that we bought on our first trip to Myanmar some years ago. It’s a delight to read and is full of insights into the culinary culture as much as the cuisine. The cuisines of Myanmar, particularly Burmese cuisine and Shan cuisine, are some of our favourite Southeast Asian cuisines and this is another of my favourite recipes with turmeric. This recipe requires a teaspoon of ground turmeric powder for a serving for two.

Singapore Laksa Recipe with a Turmeric-Laced Coconut Curry Broth

This Singapore laksa recipe makes the rich coconut milk-laced version of the classic Southeast Asian noodle soup and the paste requires 10 grams of fresh turmeric. A great laksa is not made starting from a shop-bought jar of paste. A great laksa starts with curry paste made from scratch in a mortar and pestle. Terence has been making Singapore laksa since we first started slurping the spicy coconut curry noodle soup back home in Australia in Sydney’s Chinatown in the 1980s. It served as an early after-work dinner before our evening uni classes and slurping a Singapore laksa became a Saturday morning ritual before shopping Paddy’s markets. There are basically two dominant types of laksa, one with coconut milk and one without. The one with coconut milk mixed into a stock and curry paste broth is common in southern Malaysia and Singapore and is often called curry laksa or curry mee. ‘Mee’ means noodles in various Chinese languages. And this is easily another of my favourite recipes with turmeric. 

Please do let us know in the comments below if you make any of our recipes with turmeric as we’d love to know how they turn out for you, and we’d also love some feedback and a rating.
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